Sunday, December 02, 2007
What Did I Know and When Did I Know It? [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
So everyone knows the chronology here: Deep into the second week of November, W. Thomas Smith Jr. was contacted by Tom Edsall and an e-mail was forwarded from Edsall to me from our ad dept.
I immediately had Smith go through the details of what he wrote and who his sources were, what he saw and what he was relying on others for.
I then had one of our reporters retrace Smith’s Lebanon steps from New York, as I made some calls myself to experts in the area to feel them out.
By the middle of the third week in November, I concluded Smith wasn’t skeptical enough, and that the posts in question were sloppy.
Smith had immediately offered Edsall his number in an exchange that sounded like Edsall was ready to roll. So my first instinct was see Edsall’s story and go from there (see if it raised anything we missed). I also had a sense of collegial respect for Edsall, i.e. to let him tell his story.
Thanksgiving week hit when I started thinking that this is taking ridiculously long, but I didn’t want to bury it in the holidays. The next week came, and looking back, I wish I had gone live on Monday, as people got back from vacations and before the YouTube debate. On Thursday evening Edsall contacted Smith with some of the same kind of criticisms, and so on Friday, after making sure there was nothing new raised in that exchange, we went ahead and presented the story as we knew it, and I e-mailed Edsall at a tnr.com e-mail address with what I knew.
If I had it all to do over again I would have just gone live when we knew we had a handle on the posts in question and not waited another minute to apologize and let everyone know what was happening here.
While I knew something was wrong before last week, I did not know about it six weeks ago, as some have reported, and while you can question all the calls I made, there was never any intention here to make excuses or hide anything.
I wish this hadn’t happened. I still think Smith is a well-intentioned reporter. We post him on a submission-by-submission basis and will continue to do so unless we have reason to decide otherwise. (And we are currently doing a more thorough review of all his work.)
12/02 10:21 PMShare